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BLM contains battle lightning-caused fire near Dove Creek

Hilltop Fire near Mancos dies down

A lightning-caused fire in the Weber Mountain Wilderness Study Area near Mancos has shown no growth since Friday, and another small fire that sprang up near Dove Creek has been contained.

The Hilltop Fire started on the eastern flank of Weber Mountain about 6:30 p.m. Thursday after a lightning strike the previous day. Incident commander Ian Barrett said it did not appear to grow beyond a tenth of an acre on Friday.

By Monday, fire was expected be extinguished naturally, said Patrick Seekins of the San Juan National Forest’s Dolores Ranger District.

The Hilltop Fire was one of about 10 lightning-caused fires on BLM land over the past five days, Barrett said. The Cow Canyon fire was the largest, he said, covering about 3 acres in a section of the San Juan National Forest east of Dove Creek. Three Type 3 engines and about 15 personnel were fighting that fire. Like the Hilltop Fire, it burned in a remote area, and Barrett said it posed no threat to private property. By Monday, the Cow Canyon Fire was 100 percent contained and remained at 3 acres, Seekins said.

In the Mancos area, fire officials said the BLM would continue to monitor the Hilltop Fire with a Type 4 fire engine, particularly during the hottest part of the day. The fire, which involved a tree struck by lightning, was in a steep, rocky area and was expected to be declared dead in a couple of days, Seekins said.

Barrett added that fire danger in BLM lands has fallen significantly this month because of increased humidity and rain, and the small lightning-caused fires occurring now resemble a “natural fire cycle” more than June’s large wildfires.

“Not all fires are scary and dangerous,” he said.

In response to the increased moisture, the U.S. Forest Service has removed all fire restrictions in the San Juan National Forest. The BLM Tres Rios Field Office downgraded its fire restrictions to Stage 1 last week, allowing guests to operate stoves and light fires in designated campsite fire pits. But open fires and smoking are still banned outside of designated areas.

“There are some pockets out in BLM land that didn’t receive moisture, so Stage 1 is still appropriate,” Barrett said.

He said BLM officials are scheduled to reevaluate the fire danger on Thursday and decide whether to lift fire restrictions completely.

On Friday, Cortez Fire Chief Jay Balfour said the Montezuma County fire ban would remain in place until further notice.

As of Monday morning, the National Weather Service predicted more afternoon showers and thunderstorms for Montezuma County through Tuesday, with high temperatures in the mid-80s.

This article was reposted on Monday to correct that the Cow Canyon Fire has been contained.

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